The Trojan Strawman – “Greed Works”

21 Jun

There was no better rhetoric used against libertarians than to ascribe to it’s followers the mantra, “Greed Works”.

Gordon Gecko is the face of greed

This was a special case of the straw-man argument I will call the Trojan Horse Strawman. The method involves making catch-phrase or easily repeated argument to your enemy who then takes it up and repeats it. When the your enemy starts repeating it, you have a deeply flawed argument or phrase you can attribute to your opponent. It’s like selling your enemy a weapon for which you have an impervious defense.

Another form of this is to create a fictional character to represent the other side and put your words in their mouths. If this is executed well, your enemy will identify with the character and repeat your words. Even if it isn’t taken up widely, you have a strawman for supporters of your cause to bring up whenever they want to shut down an argument. If you try to support free-markets, now you’re just a Gordon Gecko.

Gordon Gecko, of course, is the immoral tycoon in the Roger Stone movie, Wall Street who preached, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” Even though no libertarians of any note argues that “greed works”, anyone defending rich people or low taxes or corporations is called a “Gordon Gecko”.

Do real life examples of Gordon Gecko exist? Yes. That doesn’t mean his words are legitimately part of the libertarian, free-market philosophy.

Ayn Rand never spoke about Greed as a good force. I can’t find any quotes of Rand’s supporting a society based on the concept of greed [Ayn Rand] but rather defending her philosophy from the accusation of greed.

Milton Friedman understands the difference between greed and self-interest but didn’t come out and say it explicitly because he didn’t see the rhetorical sleight of hand being used.

Greed is, by definition, an excessive desire to acquire more than one deserves. It’s a natural human drive that must be held in check by rules of negotiation and competition.

There is no lack of a better word, as Gecko claimed. The better word is self-interest.

Self-interest isn’t necessarily greedy. A fair negotiator is always looking for his own self-interest. Two parties will agree to a trade only if it in both party’s self-interest. Only when one party use unfair negotiations – lies, force, coercion, etc – that it becomes greedy.

But greed, today, is considered synonymous with self-interested. If you are looking after your own self-interest, you must be greedy. Even the largest corporations today are talking about their “community interest” and their “social responsibility” to try and convince the gullible public that they don’t have their own self-interest in mind. It’s just another marketing ploy.

Conservatives allowed themselves to be placed in the impossible position of defending greed by the left’s slick propaganda and control of the public perception through cultural media.

But greed isn’t just the Wall Street Tycoon or the corporate billionaire squeezing every dollar out of his companies. Greed is the thief breaking into your car. Greed is the dealer getting people hooked on his drug. Greed is the person collecting your personal data to commit fraud.

Greedy looters

Are the looters smashing the windows of the Nike store and running off with gear not being greedy? How can BLM and politicians justify the use of political movements by people acting so greedily if they think that greed is the reason for inequality?

Greed is cheating in any way to get more than you deserve. Greed is gaming the system in your favor.

Greed is the politician that passes policy knowing it will create more powerful government departments full of loyal, well-paid public servants.

Greed is buying votes with over-generous benefits and building legal systems in a way that cements their voter-base’s loyalty by redistribution of wealth.

Greed is public-sector unions using the monopoly on services as leverage against tax payers and weak-kneed politicians.

As the meme says: You shouldn’t worry about rich people getting into government. You should about people getting rich while in government.

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